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Council tax rebates cashed at the pawnbrokers at a cost

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Issue 2809
Penny coins

Counting the pennies is the reality for millions

People are so poor they have been cashing in their £150 council tax rebate cheques at a pawnbrokers—which charges a fat fee—because they can’t afford to wait for the money. The money is supposed to compensate for soaring energy costs.  A large queue formed outside the Cash Shop in Rotherham, which deducts a £15 fee for the service. Some of those waiting in line said they could not afford to wait days for a cheque to clear through their bank.

Rotherham Council said it advised using a bank, post office or the local authority to avoid fees. The government is giving all households in bands A to D £150 through their council tax to help with the cost of living crisis. For those who do not pay theirs through direct debit, a cheque is issued instead. Speaking outside the Cash Shop, Aaron Parker told the BBC, “I’ve got no gas or electricity so it’s really important I get the money now.” Parker said he had joined a queue of about 50 people outside the Cash Shop on Wednesday of last week, after 200 people were reported there the previous day.

He has a bank account, but said the only way to get to his nearest branch in Sheffield would be to walk seven miles. “I got £134 so lost £16 but that money will get me through today. Things have been so bad literally I’ve been going to the bins to get food out.” Another visitor to the Cash Shop, Jordan, said waiting days for his cheque to clear “was a joke” when bills had increased so much. “I work 50 hours a week and sometimes overtime but it’s still tough.”

Oil profits are doing just refine 

Oil refineries are making nearly five times as much money from refining petrol as they did a year ago. “The refiners are printing money at the moment,” says Neil Crosby, senior analyst at the data firm OilX. “More than they have ever witnessed.” Petrol prices are at an all-time high though the oil price remains well below record levels. Tuesday of last week saw the fastest rise in petrol prices for 17 years.

Part of the increase is down to the high price of crude oil, which is currently above £97 per barrel. That has led to billions of pounds of extra profit for oil producers. But oil refiners—companies that turn crude oil into diesel, petrol and other products—are cashing in too. There is a shortage of refining capacity, which has led to substantial increase in the “refining margin”.

That’s the difference between what they pay for crude oil and what they can make selling the refined products. On 8 June 2021, refiners were making £7.50 per barrel from refining petrol, and £5.55 per barrel refining diesel. On Wednesday of last week, they were making £35 on petrol, up 365 percent, and £41.50 on diesel, up 648 percent. Figures published by BP, which owns a number of refineries in Europe and the US, show its own measure of refining profits is up nearly five times over the past year.

Aryan air offers language test

Ryanair has ordered South Africans traveling to Britain to complete a list of questions in Afrikaans to prove their identity. It’s only one of 11 official languages spoken in the country.

“If they are unable to complete this questionnaire, they will be refused travel,” Ryanair said. Afrikaans is a legacy of the earliest colonists from the Netherlands. The apartheid era’s attempt to enforce its use in schools sparked the 1976 Soweto revolt.

A nurse was filmed last week warning patients at an overcrowded A&E department that they could be forced to wait up to 13 hours to see a doctor.

The video came from Harlow A&E, run by Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS trust in Essex. The nurse can be heard telling people in the waiting room that there are already 170 patients in the department, with 90 more patients waiting to be seen at the time. She tells the crowded room, “Our current wait time for a doctor is seven-and-a-half hours…the waits will get up to 12 or 13 hours.”

Wars on Earth are not enough for the Tories. They are also promoting the militarisation of space. A ministry of defence press release last week enthused about, “A new, ambitious agenda, backed by £2 billion of investment and including an exciting new satellite launch.”

It is “aimed at driving forward cutting-edge research and developing new defence capabilities”. Air Vice-Marshal Paul Godfrey, Commander of UK Space Command, claimed the project would combat climate change. But that’s guff. Central elements are developing “the generation-after-next of military capabilities”

Plotting for NHS profits

US data analytics group Palantir is gearing up to run the underlying operating system for the NHS. According to the Financial Times newspaper, it is poaching senior NHS officials. It’s part of a bid to secure a £360 million contract to manage the data of millions of patients across England. The company, best known for its ties to the military and espionage sectors, has been the NHS’s go-to data analytics provider during its Covid-19 crisis.

The secretive company was co-founded by Peter Thiel, an early investor in Facebook and prominent supporter of former US president Donald Trump. It is now manoeuvring to expand its reach into the NHS over the next decade. Phil Booth is the founder of health data advocacy group medConfidential. He said, “Many are already concerned about commercial interests having involvement at all, let alone a company that helped Trump with his detentions at the Mexican border. Is this a proper corporate entity to be working at the heart of the NHS?”

Cashing in on abuse   

Children in care have reported being groomed and sexually assaulted in homes run by a firm making huge profits. Multiple employees of Calcot Services for Children told a major BBC investigation that vulnerable young people were failed. The company runs eight homes, four schools and supported living accommodation in southern England. It made profits of 42 percent in 2020 and 36 percent in 2021. That is more than double the average annual profit made by the biggest 15 providers of children’s services in Britain over the past five years.

The time when homes were largely managed by local councils has long gone and more than 80 percent are now run by private companies. Current and former Calcot workers said the company had accepted high-risk children, who came with increased levels of funding. But they said it did not meet all those children’s needs and keep them safe. Children had reported being groomed for sex, given alcohol, and also assaulted by staff. Allegations of child-on-child sexual abuse and suicide attempts after youngsters had tried to escape were not reported.

Things they say

‘Nonsensical gimmick’

What the government was leaking about its own proposals to encourage people on benefits to get mortgages

‘There are already too many working in roles focused solely on diversity and inclusion’

Tory health secretary Sajid Javid explains what is wrong with the NHS

‘A team of elite former SAS soldiers have reportedly killed up to 20 Russian generals in Ukraine’

The Sun newspaper gets over excited about possibility of our boys being mercenaries in Ukraine

‘Total sham’

The Sun newspaper denounces the Russian show trial of British people fighting in Ukraine because they aren’t mercenaries

‘Thought will have to be given as to how to support the Duke as, away from the public gaze…’

A Buckingham Palace source on the negotiations on what to do with Prince Andrew as he ‘seeks to rebuild his life’

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